Samantha Rios isn’t your average 13-year-old. The Arlington native, an eighth-grader at Kenmore Middle School, is competing on La Voz Kids, Telemundo’s version of The Voice–and is absolutely crushing it. Last week, she crooned the Jackson Five’s “Who’s Lovin’ You” and finished the song with an air kiss like the tiny diva that she is. Now she’s readying for her big performance at the semifinals on Sunday night. Her fame may have come suddenly, but one thing’s for sure: This kid has been waiting for this moment her entire life.
When a reporter interviews her on the phone, she’s got two other people on the line–publicist included. “I already feel like a winner for being on the show,” she says, like a total pro.
Also, she’s in with the right crowd. Her coach on the show is none other than Daddy Yankee, the Puerto Rican reggaeton star. “What has captivated me from Samantha is her vocal power and strength,” he says. “She has everything to succeed in the music industry. You rarely see talents like her.”
Of course, all of this didn’t just happen overnight. Rios started singing when she was four-year-old. By the time she was 8, her parents had signed her up for vocal and piano lessons. “That’s when I really started loving being on stage and performing,” she says.
She joined the Children of the Gospel Choir and got to sing “America the Beautiful” for President Obama and the First Lady, which was really cool, Rios says, because she got to take a picture with them. She’s also sang at local Hispanic festivals like the Festival Ecuatoriano and Telemundo’s Fiesta de las Madres.
She hasn’t exactly had it easy though. Rios first tried out for La Voz Kids three years ago in New York, after her dad saw a TV commercial announcing auditions. She didn’t make the cut that year–or the year after that, either. “Third time’s a charm!” she says. “I didn’t know I was going to get this far.”
She likes singing pop music–in both English and Spanish–and has been into soul as of late. Her dream is to become a music producer/famous singer and attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. For now, though, she’s focused on the task ahead: Beating out the remaining 11 contestants, including 14-year-old Franser Pazos, whose audition video has earned nearly 2.5 million views. The show’s winner lands a recording contract with Universal Music Group Latino and a $50,000 cash prize.
Which is why Rios has one more, very important thing to say: “I really need the support of the DMV area… La Voz Kids is on every Sunday at 8 o’clock!”